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By studying the past climate, scientists can better understand the effects that greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere have on temperatures — and can then make more accurate predictions about how the climate will change in the future. Krypton dating is much like the carbon-14 dating technique that measures the decay of a radioactive isotope.
“The oldest ice found in drilled cores is around 800,000 years old, and with this new technique, we think we can look into other regions and successfully date polar ice back as far as 1.5 million years,” said Christo Buizert, a postdoctoral researcher at Oregon State University and a lead author of the report. Unlike carbon, krypton is a noble gas — it doesn’t interact chemically and is more stable — with a half-life of about 230,000 years.
Scientists have successfully dated 120,000-year-old Antarctic ice using a new method called radiometric krypton dating.
The technique will allow them to study ice that is more than 1 million years old, which will reveal important details about the planet’s ancient climate cycles, according to a report released Monday.
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“That is very exciting because a lot of interesting things happened with the Earth’s climate prior to 800,000 years ago that we currently cannot study in the ice core record.” Results of the radiometric krypton dating will be published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Carbon-14 is reliable for dating objects only up to about 50,000 years old, so it isn’t useful for ancient ice.
About a decade ago, scientists drilled a two-mile-long ice core in Antarctica that revealed 800,000 years of the planet’s climate history.
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